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Borland targets .Net developers

The software company hopes to woo Microsoft .Net programmers with a new line of design and development tools for the tech giant's own C# language.

Borland Software will make a play for Microsoft's .Net developer community with tools based on the software giant's homegrown programming language, C#.

Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Borland, hoping to appeal to companies seeking an alternative to Microsoft, will extend the .Net Framework--the "plumbing" underlying .Net--to operate with a mix of operating systems and programming languages, said company executives.

The software maker announced last month that it had licensed Microsoft's .Net Framework and would build a line of .Net-oriented tools.

Microsoft's own development tools are geared at Windows developers. The software giant's .Net plan is a wide-ranging strategy for building and using applications designed around Web services, a set of standardized protocols and programming techniques for sharing information between disparate systems.

"We're taking the .Net Framework and surrounding it with enterprise tools specifically for mixed environments, by adding design elements and the full application-lifecycle development," said Michael Swindell, director of product strategies at Borland.

The company will release a set of tools this summer to address the application lifecycle of development projects that involve .Net and the competing programming technologies Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), Borland executives said. Lifecycle tools address various stages of the development process, including the up-front design, coding, testing and ongoing maintenance once an application is implemented.

The first version of the tool set, code-named Sidewinder, will be a development and design tool for the C# language (pronounced C sharp), Microsoft's alternative to Java. Subsequent versions will support other programming languages.

Borland had great success with developers in the 1990s with its Delphi programming application, which made it quicker to build visually oriented Windows applications. The company intends to bring those techniques of rapid application development to other stages of the application lifecycle, executives said.

In the past several months, Borland has been looking to parlay its popularity with developers and gain greater visibility with those higher-level executives who make buying decisions, said Chad Robinson, an analyst at information technology consultancy the Robert Frances Group. It is trying to appeal to larger companies by creating a portfolio of application lifecycle tools drawn from its acquisitions of BoldSoft, TogetherSoft and Starbase last year, he said.

"Borland has this huge base of developers that love their products but for IT executives, CFOs, CEOs, team managers--people at that level that make decisions--a lot of times Borland doesn't come up" as a potential partner, Robinson said. "They're trying to shift that now, though it remains to be seen how well they'll do."

Rumors circulated late last year that Microsoft could be interested in buying Borland itself, in part to gain more sophisticated design tools. But analysts said that Borland's focus on developing applications for multiple operating systems does not mesh with Microsoft's strategy.